Thursday, November 30, 2017

Election update: four days since polling ended

Yesterday the Tribunal Supremo Electoral said it would make an announcement of final vote count at 3 AM local time Thursday.

One assumes that was a projection based on the pace of counting, not (just) a way to try to avoid having people awake and paying attention. We did not set an alarm, which is just as well, since nothing was announced at 3 AM.

In part, that may be due to an as-yet incompletely explained event that affected the computer equipment Wednesday evening. This took the entire TSE system down with about 82% of the votes counted-- just after the vote had swung slightly to favor Hernández.

The explanation offered by David Matamoros, head of the electoral tribunal, was that this was a computer breakdown, due to the high volume of data being too much for the system used, requiring additional servers to come online. Continuing a pattern of uncertainty and confusion stemming from the Tribunal, another tribunal member, Marco Ramiro Lobo, was quoted as saying the system had been "hacked".

Regardless of the actual cause, the break in the technology came at an unfortunate point in the process. Moments before, an agreement (since repudiated) was released, brokered by the OAS, in which the two candidates agreed to accept the numbers that the TSE was supposed to be reporting in the early morning.

At 8 AM Thursday, Tegucigalpa time, the count is still stalled at just under 89%.

The vote count posted favors Juan Orlando Hernández by 23,000, out of a total of 2.92 million votes-- less than 1% difference.

Due to the procedures used by the electoral tribunal, it is impossible to be certain which polling places have yet to be tabulated. Where the 11% of votes still outstanding comes from is critical, because of the sharp differences in vote preference from region to region.

For example, in the Department of Cortes, where Salvador Nasralla has won 56% of the 404,000 votes counted, we can compare to the 2013 results, which showed a total of 516,000 voters. The possibility of there being more than 100,000 votes still uncounted from this region could be enough to shift the totals, if the current 56%/32% split of vote there continued, as that would be a 24,000 vote advantage for Nasralla.

This won't be settled until every vote has been counted. As the slow process drips on, Honduran citizens continue to have their trust in democratic institutions eroded.

And it appears that the almost inevitable round of repression of protest has also begun, with twitter reporting (and photos confirming) the militarized police or military tear-gassing protesters assembled outside the location of the counting in Tegucigalpa last evening.

It could be easy to lose sight of one clear lesson in this election: even if the incumbent president somehow holds on for a second term, against the popular rejection of presidential re-election seen in pre-election opinion surveys, the opposition campaign mobilized a far larger group of voters than international observers expected.

They maintained the level of support seen in the 2013 election, when it was split between the component Partido Anti-corrupción and LIBRE parties that make up the present Alianza, thus allowing Hernández to win with only 37% of the 2013 vote.

Whether denied office this year or not, the Alianza should be a political force to reckon with over the next four years, representing as many Honduran voters as the Partido Nacional, inheriting the role long played by the now diminished Partido Liberal as the counter to that political force.

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